We’re all guilty of late night snacking, but are you mistaking cravings for hunger? These tips will help you ward off post-dinner regrets and better listen to your body.
You ate dinner three hours ago but your stomach is growling again. Rather than heading to the pantry for a bag of chips or the freezer for a tub of ice cream, pause for a moment. Research has found that there may be negative effects to late night snacking including weight gain, increased insulin and cholesterol levels, and hormone imbalances. The research also suggests that the body may not metabolize fat as efficiently later at night compared to earlier in the day.
If you often find yourself reaching for a snack late in the evenings, here are some tips to help ditch the habit.
1. Know the difference between hunger and appetite
This may seem basic, but understanding the difference can be a great tool to avoid unnecessary calories. Hunger is the physical need for food — your stomach is growling and you have hunger pangs. Basically, your body is telling you that it needs food. Think of appetite as cravings. You don’t actually need to eat but you have the desire to do so. You know when you pass the Cinnabon at the mall? That’s your appetite talking. So the next time you’re tempted to snack after dinner, take a moment to listen to your body. Are you truly hungry? Are you possibly thirsty, or simply bored(!)?
2. Don’t tempt yourself
If you know you have the tendency to grab a bowl of ice cream in the evenings or pop some buttery popcorn for your movie before bed, don’t stock those temptations in your kitchen. If you don’t have it around, you can’t have it. Simple as that. As the old saying goes, if you’re not hungry enough to chow down on some fresh veggies, you’re not hungry. That’s an old saying, right?
3. Be productive
Oh those idle hands. Mindless snacking can be hard to combat, especially when you don’t have anything else to do. Instead of letting your mind wander to food, do something to take your mind off it. Maybe go for a walk, take a bubble bath, get some work done, or call up a friend or family member and catch up on all life’s happenings.
4. Eat a well-balanced dinner
If you are nourishing your body with a delicious evening meal, cravings won’t trick it into thinking it hasn’t eaten enough. Perhaps the most important step to saying goodbye to late night snacking is making sure you are having a healthy, well-balanced and properly portioned dinner. Go heavy on plants and clean proteins, along with fiber-rich greens and grains, and you’ll have packed in enough nutrition to keep cravings at bay. Plus, eating a dinner low in salt and sugar will help you sleep better. And who couldn’t use a little more sleep?
5. Learn to really listen to your body
Sometimes all the tricks in the world can’t take your mind off food — maybe you are actually hungry. Great, let’s eat! The choices you make once you learn to listen to your body and understand what it needs (vs what it craves) will be your key. If you eat well-balanced, healthy meals that correspond to your activity level than you’ll find that cold pizza at midnight isn’t what your body wants at all. There will likely be some nights where you just need to have a snack and that’s okay. Just choose a snack that will nourish your body. Maybe reach for a whole-grain cereal or make yourself some protein pudding. Instead of regretting your food choices, set yourself up to enjoy them.
Photo by: Tina Megan